Each football team has 11 players and the main focus of the team is to try and score a goal and not concede one. The coach of the team distributes the 11 players in different positions which can widely be categorized into four parts – Goalkeeper, Defender, Midfielder, and Forward. Goalkeeper’s job is to save goals. Defenders’ job is to defend the team when the opponent attacks. Midfielders are the bridge between defenders and forwards. Midfielders are responsible for carrying the ball upfront and create chances for the forwards. Forwards’ job is to score goals for the team. The coach then distributes players into different positions as per his tactics and formations. In the modern era, a formation of 4-3-3 is widely used by teams around the world. This formation features one goalkeeper, four defenders, three midfielders, and three forwards.
Let us now take a look at different football player positions and their roles in the team:
In Image: All Football Player Positions
Goalkeeper – The goalkeeper is the last man standing for a team. Goalkeeper’s role is to prevent the opposition players from scoring past him and make saves. This requires agility and quick reactions. They must be ready at all times. He is the only player on the pitch who is allowed to make use of hands to make saves.
Famous goalkeepers – Alisson Becker, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Jan Oblak
Sweeper – A sweeper is usually a defender who has been given the role to carry the ball forward. His role is to ‘sweep’ the ball from the back to the front. This position can also be called Libero. A sweeper is given a certain amount of freedom on the pitch and is allowed to drag the ball upfront. However, this is not used much now and the role is almost lost in modern football.
Famous sweepers - Franz Beckenbauer, Ronald Koeman, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos
Centre-Back – A centre-back(CB) is a defender who is positioned in front of the goalkeeper. His role is to make tackles, clearances and interceptions to win the ball back for the team. Their role is to cover the forwards from the opponents’ team.
Famous centre-backs – Virgil van Dijk, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Aymeric Laporte
Full-Back – A full-back is a defender who plays on either side of the pitch. The full-back on the left is known as a left-back(LB) and the one on the right is known as a right-back (RB). They are deployed on the wings with centre-backs between them. Their role is to defend the team from the wings as the centre-backs cover the middle ground. They are also allowed to move forward and creates chances for the forwards by crossing or through balls.
Famous full-backs – Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jordi Alba, Marcelo, Andy Robertson
Wing-Back – A wing-back is a combination of a winger and a full-back. The role of a wing-back is same as a full-back except that they are allowed to emphasise more on attack than defend. They are mostly relieved of defensives duties but they do defend during counter-attacks. Wing-backs are used mainly in a three centre-backs formation as these three allow the wing-backs to move further up the pitch. The wing-back on the left is known as a left wing-back(LWB) and the one on the right is known as a right wing-back(RWB).
Defensive Midfielder – A defensive midfielder(DM) has the role of a pivot. They are also known as pivots or holding-midfielders. Defensive midfielders act as a shield in front of the defence and goalkeeper. They provide a link between the defence and midfield and most attacks tend to start from them. The role of a defensive midfielder is known as the number 6 role. Their role is to do all the dirty work and allow the midfielder to move up and creates chances for the attackers. They usually sit in their half and break up opposition attacks with tough tackles and interceptions. They usually have a supreme reading of the game and position awareness.
Famous defensive midfielders – Casemiro, Sergio Busquets, Fabinho, Rodri
Central Midfielder – These are workhorses of the team. A central midfielder is arguably the most creative player of the team. Their role is to provide quality service to the forwards and also do the defensive duties during a counter-attack of the opposition. The midfielder on the right is known as Left Central Midfielder (LCM) and the one on the right is known as Right Central Midfielder (RCM).
Famous central-midfielders – Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Frenkie De Jong, Paul Pogba
Left Midfielder & Right Midfielder – These positions have almost the same role as the central midfielder but they play more on the wings. Their role is to create chances through long balls and good crosses for the forwards. The midfielder on the extreme left-wing is known as Left Midfielder (LM) and the one on the extreme right is known as Right Midfielder (RM).
Attacking Midfielder – An attacking midfielder is also known as an offensive midfielder and as the name suggests, they put more emphasis on the attack and are also good goalscorers. Their role is known as the number 10 role football. They have a free role in the midfield and sit between the midfielder and the forwards. The one on the right is known as Right Attacking Midfielder (RAM), the one on left is the Left Attacking Midfielder (LAM) and the one in the centre is known as the Central Attacking Midfielder (CAM).
Famous attacking midfielders – Kevin De Bruyne, Bruno Fernandes, Hakim Ziyech
Wing Forward – A winger is a forward who plays wide on both wings and tends to move inside as the attack starts. They are usually pacy and have a good dribbling attribute. They also provide good crosses for the other forwards. Their role is to create chances as well as score goals for the team. They support the attack from the wings. The winger on the right is known as Right Wing Forward (RWF) and the one on the left is known as Left Wing Forward (LWF).
Famous right-wingers – Lionel Messi, Mohamed Salah, Riyad Mahrez, Gareth Bale
Famous left-wingers – Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Eden Hazard, Sadio Mane
Second Striker – The role of a second-striker (SS) is to play behind the striker rather than playing alongside them. They are the link between the midfield and the attack. Their role is the same as that of an attacking midfielder but they put more emphasis on attack. Some coaches prefer to have one striker up front and have a second person playing the second striker role instead of a two striker formation.
Famous second-strikers – Thomas Muller, Antoine Griezmann, Paulo Dybala
Striker - The striker is the target-man of the team and scores a lot of goals for the team. They are goal poachers who have good positioning ability to make the best use of the services provided to them. They are also called centre-forward. They have a mixture of pace, strength and power. They are the targets of opponents’ defenders. Their role is popularly known as the number 9 role in football.
Famous strikers – Luis Suarez, Robert Lewandowski, Roberto Firmino, Sergio Aguero, Kylian Mbappe, Aubameyang